A House Well-Loved {Perspectives of a Single Mom}


Today someone came out to my house. I received an unexpected comment about the messiness of my house. “You must be embarrassed to have a house like this. Why didn’t you spend some time to clean it before I came over?” At my age, I know I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life so I tried to stand up for myself, which is not something I would have had the internal fortitude to do in the past. I don’t understand why people who probably hate themselves feel the need to make sure everyone else around them also hates themselves.

However, after they left, I broke down because all the negative thoughts I have about my ability to maintain my house received some validation from an outside source.

As a single mom with young kids, it’s generally hard enough keeping them alive and safe, fed, and meeting the status quo of life. I wouldn’t have chosen this life for myself. Ideally, I’d have a partner to help with the craziness and, ideally, maybe help clean. At the very least, someone to keep an eye on the kids while I tried to organize.

As it is, I take time to try and put items in their proper place and the kids then come by like a tornado to throw everything around again. Sometimes they’re playing with soap bubbles or splashing up the bathroom in the bath. Sometimes we’re throwing the balls in our little ball pit at each other. Sometimes there are missteps in potty training. God forbid I ever try to craft or paint at home. To me, the priority is letting them have fun, make memories, and remember their childhood as mostly blissful. I don’t have much control over that but I’ll pretend that somehow by providing for some fun activities at home, they will feel that they had a good childhood.

Is that more important than sitting them in front of the TV for long periods of time so I can clean the house? What’s the “best-practice model” here? I can understand when they’re older and have more of a capacity to clean up after themselves (maybe by age 35), but right now we’re still in the mode where they can’t eat a meal without getting food all over the place.

I try to have them become involved in cleaning up the house. We sing the “Clean Up Song” ad nauseam, I have cute little toy boxes for their toys, and try to have ways to organize the house. I know I do a better job of it than my mom did. I know I do a better job of it than most of my friends, potentially because their houses are considerably bigger and I don’t have as much surface area to try and maintain.

I hold myself to a high standard in everything, constantly criticizing myself for any perceived missteps.

I face criticism from a variety of people – my family, my kids’ dad, my coworkers, the intangible “society” at large, and the school. What if I forget something they need for school? What if the kids didn’t have time to brush their teeth? I tell myself “You should be able to do more. It seems like everyone else can. Why not you?” Daily I am crushed by the mental load of parenting.

It’s exhausting and I feel myself asking why this is my lot in life. Wouldn’t it have been great to have a “normal,” nuclear family? Maybe. Maybe it’d be worse.

I know if I allow all the obstacles and challenges to crush me, I won’t have enough left in my bucket to take care of the kids. Somehow I have to push on through to take each day second by second, congratulating myself for getting through and existing. “Hey, look at you, you’re doing it!” Sometimes that’s the most encouraging thing I can say. “You showed up today.”

I pray that I can learn to just quiet that negativity and be at peace with how this is how it is right now. Not forever. So soon my kids will grow up and I’ll have fewer toys, less mess, and, frankly, fewer kids. I can have the cleanest and loneliest house ever if I want.

I try to imagine my kids, all grown up, saying, “Wow, Mom did a good job. I’m not sure how she managed to take care of us by herself but I’m impressed. I never thought about how she was doing it all by herself because she made it look easy.”

Today I’m doing my best and though it never feels like it, it is enough. Though I’m never going to be at 100% capacity, whatever I can give has to be enough for them. A messy house is enough as long as it is filled with love.


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